Research

My research is interdisciplinary, focusing on the social science dimensions of climate variability and climate change. My work explores risk perception, risk communication and public engagement with climate change; and the implications of these areas for public policy.

I like to experiment with different methodologies, using methods which hold most promise for the research questions I set out to answer. I have published research using survey, interview, focus group, expert elicitation, photo-elicitation and Q methods; and content and frame analysis.

I currently hold (until June 2017) an ESRC Future Research Leader fellowship, ‘Visualising Climate Change’. The fellowship aims to increase understanding of the representations and power of visual imagery for engaging people with climate change. Specifically, it is exploring both ‘top down’ visual representations of climate change (in newspapers, on TV, on social media; see O’Neill and Smith (2014), O’Neill (2013) and O’Neill et al. (2013) on the Publications page) and ‘bottom up’ climate imagery (through a photo-elicitation project exploring adaptation to sea level rise, go to O’Neill and Graham (2016) on the Publications page).

From 2013-15 I led the project ‘Media and the cultural politics of climate change: tracking the coverage of the IPCC Fifth Assessment Report’. I worked with an interdisciplinary team (with colleagues in Bioscience, Psychology and Politics) to explore climate change coverage arising from the reporting of the three IPCC Working Groups. We tracked coverage on TV, in newspapers and on the social media platform Twitter. This work is now published in Nature Climate Change (see O’Neill et al. (2015) on the Publications page).

I was a co-investigator on the ESRC Urgent funded project ‘The 2013/14 Winter Floods and Policy Change’ (2014-15). This project examined how perceptions of the problems and solutions evolved during the year following the 2013/4 winter floods, in order to better understand how longer term policy responses occurs at local and national scales. See the Winter Floods Project Website for more details.

My research has contributed to the development of public policy. I have contributed to research about community safety concerning bushfire risk (including a report for the Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission); and in defining and assessing maladaptation in the water sector. I have also contributed to public engagement with climate change activities beyond academia, with past projects including a silver medal-winning garden for the RHS Chelsea Flower Show, ‘The 2050 Garden’.